Under Pressure

I have a new love.

It is my pressure cooker.

When Charlie asked me at the end of our lesson, “Can we have something with gravy for lunch?  Something like mashed potatoes?”  I didn’t get stressed out.  Previously, I would have boiled the potatoes, which takes a long time, especially if we are talking about a huge pot of potatoes (which is something I can’t stop myself for doing, for some reason, not matter how much I tell myself to just limit myself to 4 potatoes.  I have to peel at least 6 to make it feel like it’s worthwhile.  And then I throw in an extra two for good measure.)  Boiling takes so much time – at least 1/2 an hour just to get the potatoes soft.  About a week ago, I decided to try out the pressure cooker that I bought not long before the big EVAC.  This little plan of mine fired up in my brain about the time that my computer wasn’t cooperating with the Internet, so I sweetly persuaded The Mister to look up a video on Youtube about how to use a pressure cooker.

This is what I found:

I couldn’t believe what I saw.  Chicken fully cooked along with vegetables in 10 minutes?  As if!  It had to be fake, or creative editing at least.  I didn’t have everything on hand to make the suggested dish from the video, so I decided to go simple at first instead: potatoes.    The reason I had never tried this mode of cooking before is because of all the horror stories that my grandmother told me when I was a child from the extreme (women being scalded beyond recognition from pressure cookers exploding) to the tame (ceilings bearing the remnants of the evening meal after an explosion).  My grandmother also used to tell me about people who had worms.  “If you feel something come out of your bottom, dear, just grab it by the head.”  I love my grandma.  Sometimes, though, she scared the living goodness out of me.  Never have I had a mid-night encounter with a worm in my rear, so I figured that maybe my grandmother’s tales of fear about the pressure cooker could be exaggerated as well.

My first experience with the pressure cooker was thrilling, much like a thriller movie.  All intense build up with little to no actual horror.  After putting the peeled, quartered potatoes in the cooker with a little water, I turned on the heat and ran to the doorway.  I stayed there for a long time, watching the pot.  My eyes got wider and wider, and I could feel the panic building as the steam was obviously building in the pot.  My pot is not the same as the one from the video so I didn’t know when the pot had reached pressure.  Of course, being the white girl that I am, I have misplaced the instructions that came along with my particular model of cooker.  That would have been helpful information to have brushed up on beforehand, yet, as all good thriller movie plots go, the story wouldn’t be nearly as exciting if the characters  followed the logical sequence of things.  After a while of hearing the hissing, hissing, hissing, and not really clueing in that maybe, just maybe it’s reached pressure, I decided to get closer and test out the man’s action of releasing some of the steam.  My stomach was clenched with stress.  Is this the moment where it will explode and I’ll become unrecognizable from the scalding?  I used a pair of tongs to pull out the knobby thing (my model differs quite a lot from the one featured by the wise man who knows a lot about the pressure cooker history.  I bet, in actuality, it was a man taking credit for the invention of something that his wife was complaining about…. but whatever)  A LOT of steam came out along with the distinct smell of roasting.  Hmm… I think I may have burnt the potatoes.  I did the smart thing, turned off the heat, and then released more of the steam before attempting to take off the lid.  When I did take off the lid, I was met with a lovely sight.  Beautiful, soft potatoes, a few on the sides roasted slightly on the side, but not black burnt.

I have used my pressure cooker several times since.  The Moroccan tagine is a new favourite in our house.  I love that 10 minutes after the pot has reached pressure, potatoes are soft and ready to mash, or cover with butter and dill, or fry up in the pan with onions to make them a little bit crunchy and then smother in ketchup.  Or whatever you want to do with them.  Every time I lift the lid of the cooker, I expect that the potatoes will not be cooked through.  Every. Single. Time.  I expect them not to be cooked and Every. Single. Time. I am met with soft, fully cooked potatoes.  It’s amazing.

I ask myself time and again, Why have I not used it before?

Oh right, my grandma’s creepy stories.  If you, like me, had a grandma that struck the fear of God in you by telling you horror stories, shrug off the freaky and try something new.  Okay, maybe don’t shrug off ALL the stories because I don’t want to be trying something that causes me to have midnight visitors coming out of my butt.  Quick cooking potatoes = yes.  Bum snakes = no.

4 thoughts on “Under Pressure

  1. H says:

    Just remember that steam is actually hotter then boiling water and you’ll be safer then a duck flying over a shooting range.


    But seriously, as long as you’re using a well-constructed pressure cooker (also called a steam cooker, for obvious reasons), you should be safe. As with any contraption under pressure… if it is not built well (ie: has a tiny hole), it will explode once critical pressure is reached.

    The same goes for your bum.

    You see what I did there? heh.

  2. whitegirl says:

    I do see what you did there. Very clever, H. Very clever.

    Hey! I heard the good news about you arriving safe and sound and all is good with your new abode! I’m going to come over for a party next time I need to EVAC. I might just make up any excuse – “Oh, I just stubbed my toe. Gotta get out of here…”

  3. kim says:

    When you stub said toe, come see us in Victoria. We will be in desperate need of some C and D time!

    Having read your story, I. Need. A pressure cooker!

  4. Sonya says:

    For some reason I’ve always feared the pressure cooker too. Although I’m not sure why since my mom successfully used one on many occasions. I’m glad it’s working out for you so well.

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